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Representations of Class Intersectionality

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Organizer: Nick Bentley

Co-Organizer: Simon Lee

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In Social Class in the 21st Century (2015), Mike Savage reframes social categorization based on the way class is parsed through lived experience. But, for as instructive as this reframing is, it also reveals the intricacy and pliability of class definitions, underscoring how appellations like “working-class” often serve as an adjective to social categories more readily subject to discrimination. For example, Sylvia Arthur recently discussed the juncture of ethnicity and class in Know Your Place (2017), stressing the anxieties and tensions of racialized class stigma felt in institutional spaces ordinarily earmarked for the elite. However, Arthur also notes how class delineations, writ large, tend to strip away cultural identity through homogenization even when markers of racial difference remain: “Our Blackness is indivisible from the perception of us as proletarian, a centuries-old mythology that no amount of advancement has managed to dislodge.” Given the conspicuous role of classed identities in present-day political upheavals, portrayals of intersectional class concerns in cultural texts help illuminate pressing issues and offer productive ways of approaching social class that mitigate stigma and shift cultural discourse.
 
To that end, the seminar will offer three panels, each interrogating representations of class intersectionality in a variety of cultural production from a variety of locales and periods. Issues tied to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability will be considered alongside concerns of class and class bias to better grapple with the way stigmatization and alienation are amplified at these particular junctures. In doing so, each panel will address the capacity of a range of cultural texts to raise awareness, intervene, and potentially reorient conversations about social class and its pliable nature. How are representations of class bias interlaced with other forms of discrimination across media formats? Do portrayals of social categories operate discretely or are they merged as a “double stigma”? In such instances, to what degree does one social category mask another? In addition, to what degree has deindustrialization and shifting definitions of work impacted other social categories beyond class? Consideration of such questions will underscore the seminar’s aim of exploring the way cultural texts illuminate the murky spaces that exist at the crossroads of sanctioned identity markers. In doing so, the seminar will also evaluate the current state of class analysis, focusing on the kind of methodological approaches scholars can use to maximize interpretive impact and help dislodge stereotypes while simultaneously addressing shifts in what constitutes the nature of “work” itself.

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